Javier Mascherano and Barcelona are currently locked in a battle over where the Argentine's immediate future lies. The defender wants to leave the club in the winter transfer market having declared he does not feel important there anymore, but the club could not have received the news at a worse time with Samuel Umtiti, arguably their best defender, out injured. Thomas Vermaelen has stepped in but the doubts over his ability to stay fit are understandable and David Costas, the next man up from the reserves, is injured himself and offers no guarantee of quality in the first team.
The Chinese Super League's transfer market opens on January 1st and does not close until February 28th meaning there is time to find a solution. The possibility of keeping Mascherano until Umtiti recovers from his lay-off from a hamstring injury, before allowing him to leave for Tianjin Quanjian reportedly, is on the table. That would mean, however, Barcelona finding a replacement for the veteran defender, who is a rock at the back, in the January transfer window; a notoriously difficult time to buy players.
Mascherano's decision and restlessness is caused mainly by his desire to play in next summer's World Cup in Russia. The 33-year-old believes his recent muscle injuries have been caused by a lack of routine in his gametime and moving to a club where he plays would solve that. It also seems he would be a start provided he is fit and playing, under Jorge Sampaoli, who is not spoiled for choice at the back.
Another factor is salary and Barcelona could be keen to get the player off their books. He is reportedly making €5.5 million a year net and if they were to move the Argentine and Arda Turan in January, it would go a long way to creating some wiggle room on their books, with Messi's contract taking up a massive chunk of the yearly budget. They understand they will not be able to sell Mascherano after the World Cup with just one year on his salary and 34 years of age so they also want to move fast, if possible, to sell the player.
The third thing that complicates things is that Mascherano wants out now, which means keeping him until Umtiti recovers is not possible. He wishes to join the Chinese Super League as soon as possible so he can adapt to the league, the culture and everything that comes with such a move. The defender has friends in Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who have spent time there, and they have explained how the owners in the league tend to be quite inflexible, demanding you report or duty on your first day at the club.
Mashcerno has a clause of €100 million and the ball is now in Barcelona's court regarding what to do next.
- Hebei China Fortune FC